The first Council was small – a mere root-cluster of Flowers, meeting for routine business. The Floating Hyacinth was discoursing on the importance of supply lines through the tangled plotholes of HQ, while the Big Thorn waited to discuss the latest advances in construction material (significant) and plothole generation outside Word Worlds (zero).
The Queen Anne's Lace hurtled into the meeting room - the First Room, with its glass ceiling looking out over infinite space. She bounced off a doorframe, knocked down a Weed, and came to a halt in front of the Sunflower Official. Sir! she exclaimed again.
We got that part, the SO confirmed. Was there any more?
A message, sir! the Lace broadcast, and the uncontrolled sending of her mental state caused the Flowers to lean in. Something, as Captain Dandy put it later, was clearly Up.
It's the Government, sir – back on Origin.
Since you are our liaison with the Downlanders, and since you came through the plothole from Old HQ, we had deduced that much, said the Marquis de Sod. What do the Conservatives have to say for themselves?
Probably the same as usual, the Tiger Lily sniffed. 'Your unnatural extension of the life of plotholes is an abuse of a natural resource', coupled with 'Your rampant creation of potentially dangerous plotholes makes you a menace on a par with your mythical 'Merry Pseudos'.' Then they'll demand that we restrain ourselves, or else they'll be very disappointed in us, and-
It's gone beyond that, the Queen Anne's Lace said forlornly. Listen:
To the so-called First of the Flowers, the Organisation, and all who dwell in Headquarters:
In light of your flagrant disregard for the integrity of our natural environment-
Told you so, murmured the Tiger Lily.
-we, the Government and true representatives of the Flowers of Origin, have determined that your Organisation and all its resources are to be handed over to us, to be divided for the common good of all Flowers. Your artificially-create elite can no longer shirk your duties; you will be reassigned to positions which better suit your capabilities.
Like that's going to happen, the Marquis de Sod snorted. Who do they think they are?
Captain Dandy shared a look with the Sub Rosa. It did sound ridiculous… but the Weeds and Spies had reported a disturbing number of rumours…
To ensure your compliance with this directive, the Queen Anne's Lace continued, agents of this Government will be entering your Headquarters to take direct control of your Organisation. If no resistance is offered, your personnel will not be harmed.
There was a long, dangerous silence, which was broken by the Sunflower Official. It's war, then, he said quietly.
The Sub Rosa nodded her blossom. We did everything we could.
You knew this was coming? the Marquis de Sod exclaimed. And you didn't tell me?
Knew? No. Captain Dandy pulled himself up to his full height. We hoped, desperately, that it wouldn't. But we have prepared anyway. With your permission, sir?
Get to it, the SO told him. We don't know how long we have.
Long enough, Captain Dandy said with a shrug, and made his way to the communication system built into the wall. Calling all Weeds, he said, calling all Weeds. Case Grey, I say again, Case Grey. Take your places – and good luck.
He turned back to the assembled Flowers. War, he repeated. Let's hope we can hold.
The second Council was smaller, the leaders of the Organisation meeting in an enclosed room far from Origin.
Fire, the Marquis de Sod said numbly. They used fire…
It was efficient, Captain Dandy said, thinking of the dozen Weeds he had lost during the last assault. They knew they could never fight their way out of Old HQ, not with only three plotholes leaving the planet. Our forces were too strong. But fire… fire levels all comers.
And now the Conservatives have a clear path to HQ, the Sub Rosa said. It won't be long until the ashes cool, and then the plothole to the First Room will be accessible once again. She was the Organisation's newest Deputy, leading the Department of Intelligence – a wartime necessity, but turning out to be endlessly useful in the Organisation's operations.
Can't we shut it down? the Sunflower Official asked. Are we even sure it survived the fire?
It survived, Hornbeam intoned. We constructed the sustainer to survive whatever could occur to it. Nor can we deactivate it – that would require standard time partitions of work on the far side – the side the Conservatives control.
So there's no hope, the Marquis de Sod concluded. We cannot stop the Rebels from entering HQ. And once they are inside, we will never be able to drive them out.
… there is an option, Captain Dandy pointed out. He glanced over at Hornbeam, who nodded his great canopy. The other two plotholes to Origin are heavily guarded now – and we have installed fireproofing and extinguishing systems. They won't take us by surprise again.
But that doesn't help with the first plothole, the Sunflower Official pointed out.
No, Captain Dandy agreed. But… we made the roof of glass.
The silence stretched out. Finally, the Marquis de Sod said, I would say you cannot be serious, but I can tell that you are.
We've searched hard for an alternative, Captain Dandy told him, but there is none. We can even place a seal over the plothole before we bring the roof down. If they still attempt to break through, when it is clear there is a void beyond – well, that is on their blooms, not ours.
It's appalling, the Marquis said. It's monstrous. It's… He sighed. … the only choice, isn't it?
I'm afraid so, Captain Dandy said. I wish there were another way.
So do we all, the Sunflower Official sighed. Do it.
The third Council was everyone. Every Flower and Plant still remaining in Headquarters gathered in the vast room which had become known as the Cafeteria, watching a visual-mental feed piped across five worlds.
We tried, the Sunflower Official said, facing the screen. Even as we fought, we tried to talk to the Government. The Queen Anne's Lace did everything she could to reach them – but they would not listen.
You know everything that has happened. The slaughter in Admin – our bombing of the Garden – the actions on both sides that can never be taken back, never be forgotten. You know all this. You know that we have reclaimed Old HQ – and you know that we cannot hold it. A few more turns of Origin under Sun and Hole, and the Government will break through our lines. The war will continue.
Unless we do something. Already, two of the three plotholes from Origin to HQ have been unbound, released to evaporate back to that which they came. There is only one passage left – and it is right here.
Behind the SO, Captain Dandy gestured to his Weeds. They moved aside, revealing the rebuilt First Room – solid now in floor and ceiling, HQ's route for the last offensive, thrown together with no time for aesthetics – and the open plothole at the far end. Through it, the lab in Old HQ was clearly visible, blackened by fire and explosion.
We can close this route, the SO said, a quiet voice projected directly to every Flower in HQ. But should we? It would defend us – keep us safe – but we would be locked out of our homeworld. We could never go back. Is the price worth paying?
I believe it is. We Flowers are not bound to our origin – we are beings of the Multiverse. To end this senseless war – to be free to pursue our own course – I believe we must close this plothole. Is there any among you who disagrees?
There was silence. It lay like a blanket over the Flowers, like a carpet of leaves in late autumn, like a dark cloud before rain. None broke it. None moved.
Thank you, the Sunflower Official said at last. Captain Dandy – do your duty.
The Captain stretched one frond upwards, and from out of shot Hornbeam's branch appeared, passing a small device to the Dandelion. It was somewhat larger than a pen, with a ring mounted on the end. The Weed hesitated a moment, then pointed the device through the plothole and pushed a button.
The device emitted a noise – a strange, modulating sound that seemed to pass through air and mind simultaneously. The sound rose, and as it did the plothole seemed to shimmer. The edges, bound to the sustainer, began to shift, wavering in the air – and then, with a snap, the plothole vanished, and Origin was gone.
This is not the end, the Sunflower Official said into the silence. We may have lost Origin – but we have a Multiverse to attend to. And, as you know, there are other threats out there. The Merry Pseudos, those natural plothole generators, are on the rise. If they continue to increase in number, every universe may come under threat.
This is our new task. We are no longer an aimless Organisation. We are no longer just the Flowers of Headquarters. We are no longer even soldiers – we are Protectors. And the Word Worlds, that continuum of worlds with their own plot, are what we will defend.
The Merry Pseudos will assail the plot, but we stand against them. We are canon's defenders. Flowers, Plants, everyone – welcome to the Protectors of the Plot Continuum.